"Eat your dinners to-day, to-morrow we starve," he said one night, bitterly, as the council broke up. When Ysidro proposed to him that they should journey to Los Angeles, where Father Gaspara had said the headquarters of the Government officers were, and where they could learn all about the new laws in regard to land, Alessandro laughed at him. "What more is it, then, which you wish to know, my brother, about the American laws?" he said. "Is it not enough that you know they have made a law which will take the land from Indians; from us who have owned it longer than any can remember; land that our ancestors are buried in,-- will take that land and give it to themselves, and say it is theirs? Is it to hear this again said in your face, and to see the man laugh who says it, like the lawyer in San Diego, that you will journey to Los Angeles? I will not go!"
And Ysidro went alone. Father Gaspara gave him a letter to the Los Angeles priest, who went with him to the land-office, patiently interpreted for him all he had to say, and as patiently interpreted all that the officials had to say in reply. They did not laugh, as Alessandro in his bitterness had said. They were not inhuman, and they felt sincere sympathy for this man, representative of two hundred hard-working, industrious people, in danger of being turned out of house and home. But they were very busy; they had to say curtly, and in few words, all there was to be said: the San Pasquale district was certainly the property of the United States Government, and the lands were in market, to be filed on, and bought, according to the homestead laws, These officials had neither authority nor option in the matter. They were there simply to carry out instructions, and obey orders.
Ysidro understood the substance of all this, though the details were beyond his comprehension. But he did not regret having taken the journey; he had now made his last effort for his people. The Los Angeles priest had promised that he would himself write a letter to Washington, to lay the case before the head man there, and perhaps something would be done for their relief. It seemed incredible to Ysidro, as, riding along day after day, on his sad homeward journey, he reflected on the subject,-- it seemed incredible to him that the Government would permit such a village as theirs to be destroyed. He reached home just at sunset; and looking down, as Alessandro and Ramona had done on the morning of their arrival, from the hillcrests at the west end of the valley, seeing the broad belt of cultivated fields and orchards, the peaceful little hamlet of houses, he groaned. "If the people who make these laws could only see this village, they would never turn us out, never! They can't know what is being done. I am sure they can't know."
"What did I tell you?" cried Alessandro, galloping up on Benito, and reining him in so sharply he reared and plunged. "What did I tell you? I saw by your face, many paces back, that you had come as you went, or worse! I have been watching for you these two days. Another American has come in with Morong in the canon; they are making corrals; they will keep stock. You will see how long we have any pasture-lands in that end of the valley. I drive all my stock to San Diego next week. I will sell it for what it will bring,-- both the cattle and the sheep. It is no use. You will see."
When Ysidro began to recount his interview with the land-office authorities, Alessandro broke in fiercely: "I wish to hear no more of it. Their names and their speech are like smoke in my eyes and my nose. I think I shall go mad, Ysidro. Go tell your story to the men who are waiting to hear it, and who yet believe that an American may speak truth!"
Alessandro was as good as his word. The very next week he drove all his cattle and sheep to San Diego, and sold them at great loss. "It is better than nothing," he said. "They will not now be sold by the sheriff, like my father's in Temecula." The money he got, he took to Father Gaspara. "Father," he said huskily. "I have sold all my stock. I would not wait for the Americans to sell it for me, and take the money. I have not got much, but it is better than nothing. It will make that we do not starve for one year. Will you keep it for me, Father? I dare not have it in San Pasquale. San Pasquale will be like Temecula,-- it may be to-morrow."
To the Father's suggestion that he should put the money in a bank in San Diego, Alessandro cried: "Sooner would I throw it in the sea yonder! I trust no man, henceforth; only the Church I will trust. Keep it for me, Father, I pray you," and the Father could not refuse his imploring tone.
"What are your plans now?" he asked.
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